Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Feeling

Well it's been quite a week for gigs.

Tonight K, Stuart and I have The Feeling at Manchester Apollo, supported by The Fray.

The Fray's set is all very slick and How to Save a Life stands out as a quality pop tune, but it's all very easy-listening and same-y.

At the weekend Stuart invented a new yardstick for judging gigs; if the band were playing at the end of your garden, would you close the windows.

Halfway through their set I lean to Stuart and suggest that I'd be ready to close the window now.

The Feeling take to the stage following a video montage of their fans covering various tracks. The guy in the shower is hilarious.

Whilst The Feeling might not be top of my musical wish list, they bring an undeniable energy to the stage. The set is professional and the interaction with the crowd wins over even the most ardent doubter.

The crowd bounce and sing along to number after number and even the covers of Video Killed the Radio Star and Fat Bottomed Girls sparkle.

As is traditional, I text Sally to see if she'd like to hear a bit of what she's suggested should be DC's theme tune. Ironically enough she misses out because she was on the phone to DC, who for once had called.

So here especially for Sally is a quick excerpt:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Internet Makes Work for Idle Hands...

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

You know what it's like; bit of time on your hands, no new emails and you've read all the blogs you really want to (and can't face the ones you subscribe to, but rarely read) and so you start to wander around those time-wasting websites of choice.

Now don't get me wrong, I too am hugely disappointed in the Labour government, but at the same time their endeavours in the field of internet based distraction services shouldn't go unacknowledged.

So if you don't already have it bookmarked, can I recommend to you the wonder that is 10 Downing Street's E-Petition site.

Of course you can spend your time reflecting on what the 1.7 million plus signatures to the road-pricing petition say about democracy in the modern age, you could take a moment to whisper kyrie eleison at the number of racist submissions, or you could (and if you're me, you will), while away some happy minutes finding petitions such as these:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to:

When you've tired of that, then you can waste a good hour or so trawling the internet for amusing "mic in" tracks.

If you haven't come across these before, then let me explain. Ordinary people play around with their computers and record themselves using the "mic in" line and some software. What the unsuspecting ones don't twig is that a) if you don't over-ride the settings, most software will save the resulting files with default and rather incriminating filenames like "micin1.mp3" and b) again unless you change the settings it will store these files with the rest of your mp3s which suddenly become available to the world at large if you use peer-to-peer music file sharing programs.

Now curiousity is said to have killed the cat (whether the extension of child benefit would mean you'd get help with the funeral expenses is unclear), but despite such cautions, it remains a constant part of human nature. So of course when people start seeing "mic in" files on your computer, they're going to have a bit of a nosey. And then, being the wonderful generous creatures that they are, they'll share any treasures they find with the rest of the world via the internet.

Google is your friend if you want to see what I mean, but you could do worse than start here. I can particularly recommend the renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody (increasingly disturbing as it goes on and he's within spitting distant of the right notes...occasionally) and my personal favourite Teen Spirit (listen to the end for the classic vocal interpretation of guitar chords).

Of course some people have taken it one step further and used the mic in tracks as samples, creating some of the most disturbing tunes you've probably come across in a good while. Try the library on Stark Effect's website and check out Bunnyrabbits, Satan, Cheese and Milk.

Maybe I should go and do something more productive?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cherry Ghost and Polytechnic

After a quick detour to mine to use the washing machine (Stuart and K's having broken rather fatally this morning), it's on to a double headline gig tonight at Academy 3.

First up we have Cherry Ghost.

The lead singer and driving force behind Cherry Ghost, looks like a better looking (let's face it, it's not hard) Mark E Smith, the bassist like Bob Dylan's twelve year old nephew and the guitarist like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's younger brother. Sadly the music, whilst pleasant enough, is often similarly derivative (and not always in a good way - a bit prog at times, even a bit Showaddywaddy at others), with nothing of its own to truly set it apart.

As a live act, they're perfectly adequate, but somehow they fail to capture the audience's attention fully and take us beyond the feeling of "this is nice enough".

Stuart sums it up well by suggesting that if they were playing at the end of your garden, you wouldn't shut the window.

The kind of music, you might put on at the end of a long night, he suggests. But, I have to counter, with the wealth of other music out there, what would make you run the thumb wheel down to Cherry Ghost?

After a short break, the night takes an upturn as Polytechnic take to the stage.

Good tunes and a passionate performance, more than compensate for the odd minor musical stumble.

The audience response is much better, but they're still at the stage of winning people over as opposed to having a room full of sing-a-long fans like Little Man Tate last week. However, based on their singles to date and this performance, they could be well on their way.

Bizarrely, they've apparently just agreed to go on tour with Keane. I guess this will give them good exposure, but I can't help feeling it's a strange fit. Still anyone going to see Keane could no doubt do with something more interesting to help the evening along.

A free CD on the way out is a nice touch as well, hopefully the word will spread.

A post-gig curry is in order, and an uncommonly quiet Punjab is a nice chilled way to end the evening.


Favourite niece K and I are on a mission. A mission that involves the Trafford Centre and lots of shopping. I think we should be up to the challenge...

After the first couple of shops we find a late lunch at Cathay, the Yang Sing's Trafford Centre outlet.

It's easy to be sceptical about eateries (or indeed most things) at the TC, but I've heard good things about Cathay.

Based on the shared platter of dim sum and a couple of main dishes, I'd have to say I'd agree; it's clear that the Yang Sing have brought their customary quality to the table for this shopping centre version.

Well fed, it's back to the stores and several hours later, the aim of our endeavour is met; favourite niece has what she needs and is hopefully a happier bunny as a result.

Last stop before we finish is Debenhams, where the pair of pumps I saw last week with K's mum are still playing on my mind.

In the light of Stuart's lenten challenge, the casting vote goes to K:

"Don't listen to my father, they look good. Get them."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Little Man Tate

K is taking a night off from gigging and has a girl's night in planned with the two youngest 'favourite nieces'. Accordingly Stuart and I are dropped off early for our night out (how splendid is this woman, first she feeds us a rather wonderful minestone stew and then she chaffeurs!). Having checked out the support band on MySpace (how did we survive without?), we're not convinced and decide a drink is the better option.

Big Hands is the perfect start and finish to a gig at the Academy usually, but either Stuart and I are getting old or the decision to boost the volume of the music for the second time (taking it from ear-splittingly loud if you are anywhere near the speakers, to downright painful) was a mistake. Judging by the way it prompted several other groups (of all ages) to similarly drink up and leave, it was probably the latter. It did seem to get dropped as we reached the door, but too late, custom lost.

Kro in contrast is somewhat more restrained and we have a happy couple of drinks before heading across the road.

Tonight's gig in the Academy 2, is Little Man Tate's biggest gig to date outside of their home town of Sheffield.

Coming on to Man I Hate Your Band, the venue is alive, the crowd are bouncing and chanting along. They may be from t'other side of the Pennines, but based on this reaction, their fanbase is spreading fast. It's easy to see why, given the passion and intensity that this band bring to the stage.

We were pretty impressed with them at the Xfm Winter Wonderland, but tonight proves they have what it takes to assume headline duties. Top tunes, stage presence, lyrics that beautifully capture shared experiences, passionate enthusiasm and a clear connection with the crowd - I reckon they'll do ok. Always exciting to see a band at the cusp of the next step up.

We head back over to Kro for another couple of rounds (very, very generous measures thanks to the lovely bar staff). The last of which is downed as soon as it's bought as K is on her way to pick us up and we're not where we said we'd meet her. Tossing down the Stoli and then rushing up Oxford Rd, I can feel the alcohol hitting the bloodstream. Hmmmm maybe we drank those last too a little fast...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Prince

At book group this week we departed from our normal novels and read The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.

I found the early chapters that draw lessons from history that I’m unfamiliar with a little hard going, but it picks up and it’s a staggering collection of astute and pretty much amoral observations. Recommendations are proffered almost purely on the basis of ‘this way works”, even if this way means killing a few people in grotesquely violent means.

So while some of it is interesting, but rather uncomfortable reading, the parts that came alive for me, were those where parallels can be seen not in ancient European history, but in contemporary and even personal experiences.

Two sections in particular spoke to me about a particular tricky situation I’ve been involved in trying to resolve in the past couple of years. Those in the know will likely guess of what I speak, but please feel free NOT to be explicit in any comments ;-)

Firstly, on changing ‘laws’:
"It should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes in a state’s constitution. The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new. Their support is lukewarm partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the existing laws on their side, and partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience. In consequence, whenever those who oppose the changes can do so, they attack vigorously, and the defence made by others is only lukewarm.”
Secondly, on how to act on taking over control of a ‘state’ the:
“ ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once for all, and not have to renew them every day, and in that way he will be bale to set men’s minds at rest and win them over to him when he confers benefits. Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or misjudgement, is always forced to have the knife ready in his hand and he can never depend on his subjects because they, suffering fresh and continuous violence, can never feel secure with regard to him. Violence must be inflicted once for all; people will then forget what it tastes like and be less resentful.”
Or to summarise the latter in contemporary terms, if you’re going to have to ban the fucker, do it swiftly and be done with it and don’t let it drag on. And I can see the wisdom in that in terms of neatness of outcome, but what about due process and fairness, acting with grace and having hope in faith in change and working to improve a situation as opposed to using ‘violence’? And there’s the rub.

Right place, right time.

It’s not a good start to the day when within 100 yards of your house you hit gridlocked traffic. The police have closed the A6 and we’re going nowhere fast.

As I weave my way through the back roads and rat runs, endeavouring to get past the problems, it occurs to me that given I’ve done about 1 mile in half an hour, I might end up late for my meeting. As the latest tune ends on Xfm and the DJ states “good news the Xfm Ticket Monkey has been found, so let’s go live…”, I take the opportunity to kill the volume and get the TomTom to ring the office.

I tell my secretary that I might be a little late and can she explain to my visitor if I don’t make it in time.

I turn the radio back-up and rejoice as I seem to escape the limits of the gridlock and head down the A34 unhindered.

The phone rings and the TomTom again does it’s hands-free duty and connects me. It’s Stuart, who starts the conversation with a repeat of my infamous words of the other week:

“I’ve got some excellent news, but you just need to be happy for me, because I have to tell you upfront not to get excited because it doesn’t involve you I’m afraid”.

“Oooh do tell!”

“I just found the Xfm Ticket Monkey!”

“You’re shitting me! You just got the Kaiser Chief tickets?”

“Yep, me and K are off to see them tonight. I just happened to be in Salford Quays when the read the last clue out and said she’s wearing a blue scarf by two blue tall things and I thought that’s the blue cranes 100 yards over there, so I pulled over and said to a woman with a blue scarf “Are you the Xfm Ticket Monkey?”. I was rather glad she said yes, else I’d have felt really stupid.”

How cool is that? Can’t believe I turned the radio off at the exact moment when S went live to the city. I’m so happy for him, in fact as I say, I could only be happier if it had been three tickets!

Stuart rings back later when I’m not driving to tell me more. Apparently in the chit-chat with the lass from Xfm (as a guy in a gorilla suit appears to actually hand over the tickets) whilst waiting to speak to the studio on the phone, she asked him if he had any other plans for the weekend. To which he replied that he was going to see Little Man Tate tomorrow night and Cherry Ghost and Polytechnic on Saturday.

Her response was “wow!”, of course if she’d known him better, she like me would actually have said: “who the hell do you think you are, Jude Adam?”

Monday, February 19, 2007

Safety First

M has taken a new job, one that will see him occasionally make the trek from the south coast to the company’s offices in Manchester. He’s up for a few days this week, so his fellow safety manager R and I take him for a curry.

Time to introduce M to the Punjab and the wonders of a dosa. It doesn’t fail to impress.

It’s good to catch up with the safety guys and talk about the festival and the way forward etc, but even better just to catch up as friends.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


It’s lovely to see T and E again and one of their friends plus T’s cousin bring our happy band to seven. We meet up in the Bar (it took the owners a long time to come up with that name) and then made our way round the pubs and bars of Chorlton.

Personally I could have lived without the country and western band in the Royal Oak (made even more surreal by When Will I Be Famous running silently on the large screen next to us – curiously limber brother and sister acts on roller skates accompanied by C&W is one irony step too far for me I’m afraid).

These things matter little however, when you’re with people who are just so perfect for nights out drinking; the conversation flows freely and the laughter even more so (the fact that alcohol was flowing similarly unhindered may have helped).

Walking back to the Dog Collars and Rabbit Corpses house, (via the obligatory kebab joint), it felt like we were regressing into our youth. Laughing uncontrollably and then shushing each other and trying to remember that at gone 2am it’s possible that the local residents might just possibly be sleeping. N needed to pee and disappeared into the grounds of a certain building, only to reappear, catching us up, by hurdling over the hedgerows.

Then my phone rings and it’s K, oldest of my ‘favourite nieces’.

“Well at least you answer your phone which is more than either of my parents!”


“They were supposed to be back by 12.30am.”

Errr aren’t they the ones that set you curfews rather than the other way round?”

“Yes, but they haven’t got their keys with them, so I’m having to wait up.”

Double oooops!

We skulk in, to rolled eyes from K and share a night cap before calling for a cab.

I think it was about 3.30am before I got home. Emptying my pockets I had another flashback to drunken student days of yore: how come I went to the cash machine and took out £80 and I’ve only got a tenner left. And come to think of it, where did that bruise on my arm come from?

Still at least I can lie in, in the morning, whereas one amongst us was going to have to be up and out in 4 hours time to preach a sermon.

You may now all join with K in rolling your eyes.

Shopping Buddies

And so it came to pass that K and I went shopping together.

Why on earth have we never done this before?

Two hours in, we’ve only actually done two shops, but to be fair, one is a department store (so actually lots of little shops really) and the other is Primark (which it appears is less of a shop and more of a new and unique circle of hell, bedlam and disorder and huge queues reign).

After a (late) lunch break at Café Metro, we continue in our quest.

Faith shoes: now it would be wrong of me to suggest I didn’t indulge (a fab pair of black canvas pumps, with an ankle strap – yay pumps that stay on your feet and a pair of Kanga trainers in the sale at a bargain £15), but let’s just say I have to bow to a superior shoe shopper as K purchases a pair of pumps in patterned material and a matching handbag. I am but a novice in the shadow of such excellent procurement.

Various shoe shops try to tempt us off the straight and narrow, but we keep our resolve and make it to Next, where in contrast to Primark, calm and gentle order prevail. The racks are neat and the assistants helpful (we order Stuart one T’shirt he wanted, but isn’t in stock yet and buy him one from the same range that is, excellent diversionary tactics from Mrs K there). We each try on a couple of items, but the success of the day was when we both squeezed our fine but slightly less ample of late derrières into rather small sized jeans – yay!

Tired but satisfied we head back to the Dog Collars and Rabbit Corpses’ household and just have time to show of our purchases, before changing into our new (matching) jeans and heading into Chorlton for a night out with friends.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I think not

As I arrive at the Dog Collars and Rabbit Corpses’ household after work (we’re heading out for a Punjab later), I’m greeted with the line “I’ve just blogged about you!”.

The offending article would be this, in which Stuart suggests (oh he thinks he’s so funny) that I should give up buying shoes for lent.

Silly boy.

You see I don’t buy shoes or clothes very often as I don’t hit the shops very often. So when I do, I tend to have a splurge.

Admittedly the other week I went into Sports World in a retail park near where I work to buy a swimcap (part of the healthy living campaign, very worthy) and noticed they had a shoe sale on. Now I need some trainers for the gym (again worthy points and trust me I wouldn’t buy white, sensible, trainers for any aesthetic reason), so I took a look.

It’s hardly my fault that for a supposed sports shop they also had ‘general shoes’. And at £3.16 for some wedgy canvas affairs with an ankle tie, it would have been criminal to not have tried them on. Ok so maybe I didn’t strictly speaking need a black pair, a pink pair and a rather fine chocolate brown pair with gorgeous beading and sequins, but come on folks, at £3.16 is it really worth taking ten minutes to decide which ones you prefer?

I realise that this story could be reduced to a headline of “1iz goes to a shop for a swimcap and leaves with four pairs of shoes”, but really I think you’ll agree that would do a disservice to the extenuating circumstances…

When K gets home, she and I disappear upstairs and start talking clothes. She has this totally fabulous skirt – quite the loveliest thing I’ve seen for a good while. As we talk shops, it becomes clear that she a) shops in places I don’t often visit and b) she has a real eye for good purchases.

Now contrary to what some people may think I’m not actually a keen shopper. Generally I find the whole process a chore and the crowds and the hassle send me nuts. I want to get in, get what I need and get out again. Similarly, there are few people I can bear to go shopping with; when it comes to clothes shopping even fewer, but I figure K would actually be a great shopping companion. So we start talking about how we should hit town together sometime; in fact, aren’t we both free tomorrow afternoon?

As we head back downstairs, still talking clothes, Stuart looks up and says “how come you two, have never been shopping together?”.

Well that would seem to be a sign wouldn’t it?

Any one else think he may come to regret that sentence?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Apparently I'm...

Joe Normal

47 % Nerd, 8% Geek, 17% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored less than half in all three, earning you the title of: Joe Normal.

This is not to say that you don't have some Nerd, Geek or Dork inside of you--we all do, and you can see the percentages you have right above. This is just to say that none of those qualities stand out so much as to define you. Sure, you enjoy an episode of Star Trek now and again, and yeah, you kinda enjoyed a few classes back in the day. And, once in a while, you stumble while walking down the street even though there was nothing there to cause you to trip. But, for the most part, you look and act fairly typically, and aren't much of an outcast.

I'd say there's a fair chance someone asked you to take this test. In any event, fairly normal. Congratulations!


Thanks to Fragile Tender for the link.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Things to make you go “eeeuuuwwwgghh!”

So today was a fundraising day for a charity, which involved us all wearing red. I plumped for a red top and my lovely new red shoes (well I say lovely, they look nice, but you spend half you life fishing them back up your heel).

There’s something lovely about a pair of red pumps.

Well there is until one of your colleagues, a late fifties, slightly lecherous, but ultimately harmless bloke, screws up his face into a leer and says “phwoar! I’ve got a real thing about women in red pumps”.

So that’ll be one pair of shoes, I’ll not be wearing to work again in a hurry.

This is probably second only to the time I sat down next to a male colleague for a conference, who promptly sniffed the air knowingly and leant over and whispered “mmmm Jean Paul Gaultier perfume…instant boner”. That was a long day.

I never wore that perfume to work again either.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The soundtrack to my life right now

I just don't get people who aren't moved by music. My father finds music 'distracting' (though isn't that kind of the point at times?) and so, outside of my room, I grew up in largely silent household; whereas now on a typical day I wake to the alarm on my DAB radio, listen to the radio on the morning commute, turn on the iPod over lunch, catch the drivetime shows home, turn on the CD while I cook and finally fall asleep to something beautiful.

Music follows me round the house, down the motorway, through my life.

I devour music, absorb it, bathe in, live in it.

The tunes that soundtrack my life will vary from one month to the next, favourites will resurface again and again, shorter term obsessions will come and go.

So more for me than any one out there (have you not worked that out already about this blog?), for the record, this is the music that accompanies my life at this moment in time (in no particular order):

Hmmm...looking at that list I clearly have a thing for guitar bands (like I didn't already know that), but there also seems to be a developing theme of falsetto male voices. Come to think of it I did shove on an old Communards album the other week as well...

Luckily for my insatiable ears new music keeps coming and coming. Is there a point when it becomes indecent to still be following the new? At what age is it expected that you stop listening to anything new and settle down with the bands of 'your generation'?

I have a friend who has a theory on fashion, that in some way your taste in clothes get frozen to the time when you first really grew up. Ok she's blunter than that, she links it to what you were wearing when you lost your cherry (well ok, just before the moment you lost your cherry in most cases).

I think she may have something in the concept that our tastes do tend to freeze a little around the golden years of our late teens, but perhaps she takes it too far.

After all, according to her theory, old-age virgins should be the most en Vogue of their generation.

Anyway, I digress, the point is my musical tastes seem to keep expanding (maybe I have yet to lose my musical cherry? damn it enough of that digression already). So in the spirit of all things blog like and sharing, I've added links above to youtube and myspace etc where you can hear snippets of the albums I've listed, maybe other bloggers would like to similarly share their current musical listening?

What's the current soundtrack to your life?

Ah go on now; we won't judge.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Life on Mars

Set your video recorders folks, starting this week is the final series of Life on Mars and if this preview of the Camberwick Green inspired episode is anything to go by, it should be good. So cool that the puppets capture the essence of the actors.

9pm Tuesday. Nice.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tagine Time

Many, many moons ago, in response to a blog post where I talked about cooking a Moroccan meal, I promised Rob that I'd cook him and the lovely M a tagine sometime.

Well at long last the night has come (I even hoovered!) and we have a lovely evening of far too much food, some lovely wine (incl a fine bottle of Chateau du Rob) and talk. Talk that goes on until the wee small hours - a lovely evening.

Let's not leave it so long next time huh?

Friday, February 09, 2007

No Snow

Manchester city centre itself rarely gets much snow, but this week, whilst much of the country has been covered in white, we've had none whatsoever.

Warr1ngton has had a bit and as I leave the office at 7pm, large flakes are starting to fall. However, by the time I finish in Sainsburys, so has the snow. A couple of hours later as I leave the gym, all evidence of any snow having fallen has disappeared entirely and the drive home is clear.

So dear reader I leave you instead with views friends have sent me of snow in other cities. Join with me in saying "awwww!":


When I told Stuart and Karen that if they did get a TomTom, then we could sign up to be buddies and then see where each other was on the map; Stuart went "ooooh",, Karen gave us 'the look'. The look that says "you two and your gadgets, why on earth would you want to do that?".

Of course there's no good answer to that one. I guess if we were both travelling to something we'd be able to see each other's progress, but that's a bit weak isn't it? What information does the TomTom buddy feature give that a simple phone call wouldn't? But that's not the point - it's just cool that we could...if we ever wanted to.

When I told Sally that we could be TomTom buddies, she seemed similarly unimpressed and added "typical though, I've had mine for a year and didn't know it could do this, you've had yours for 48hours...".

When I told Steve that we could be TomTom buddies, he said "cool! Let's set it up now!".

When he told his good lady wife, he apparently also received 'the look'.

Sadly however, technology let me down and I couldn't get my TomTom to establish the required GPRS data link through my phone.

I looked at the FAQs on the website and nearly gave up when there was no relevant info. Half-heartedly, barely hopeful of receiving a timely, helpful response, I filled in the standard tech support email request form.

By lunchtime today, a mere 14 hours later, a reply drops into my inbox, with detailed info about what the likely problem is and the specific info I need to get from my mobile phone provider.

Well that's better than I expected, but I'm now in the hands of Orange. Yes, that sound you hear, is that of my crest falling.

After a mere 10 minutes in their queuing system (question - given this happens every single time I try to get through, is it really accurate for them to keep claiming that they are "currently experiencing an unprecedented number of calls"?) I get passed from one assistant with a poor grasp of English to another, until finally my call lands with the rather wonderful Rob.

Rob works through all the issues with me, resets my GPRS account and gives me the data I need in case that hasn't fixed it and I need to set it up manually.

Annoyingly the TomTom system takes ages to try new settings, before you can override things and I feel bad about keeping him waiting. I suggest I have a go and ring back if it doesn't work. He counters that I'll only end up in the queue again and likely end up with someone who doesn't understand what I'm trying to do.

Bless him, it all works and my TomTom can now do all it should via my mobile.

No one is more surprised than me that I experienced not one, but two examples of fine customer services in the course of one day. The fact that one of the companies involved was my previous nemesis Orange, is all the more shocking.

I may need to sit down for a while.

Oh look Steve's at his home...shall I wave?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Day Two

After the final day of training we manage to get away promptly, seeking to stay ahead of the threatened snow.

The traffic receiver for the TomTom earns its keep and we avoid the worst of the traffic incidents.

By the time we get back to the office, the temperature is well below zero and I have to scrape ice off both the outside and the inside of my poor car, before heading home.

Glad to get back to Manchester, I turn up the heating and crawl under the duvet.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Day One

After breakfast, we head off for the office where we'll be running the course. It's a cross country route, but we figure that we'll learn our lesson from yesterday and trust Mr Cleese.

That is until he takes us up an unmade road. Did I say road? I think track would be more fitting.

The local road signs aren't much more helpful, but we've left plenty of time and so we're still there in good time and set up ready for when the delegates arrive.

It's an intensive course and tricky stuff for the guys to pick up, but by the end of day one they seem to have got one of the most complex aspect and settle down to the final exercise unaided.

Back at our accommodation, we have a short time before dinner. I retire to my room and am entertained by text messages from Sally. She has a go at guessing the nature of the questions we set on the course. I believe her finest attempt involved the phrase "using the standard national turd transfer rate".

It's almost as if she was a fly on the training room wall.

After dinner in the beautifully converted main building, we take a walk into the village and find a lovely little pub, all exposed beams, real ale and open fires.

The perfect unwind after an intense day.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Heading South

A busy work day means my colleague and I don't manage to leave to travel south until nearly 7pm. Deciding we'll need to stop for a bite en route and keen to avoid service station foder, we allow my sat nav (now with the lovely speaking tones of John Cleese), to direct us to one of it's listed pubs, just off the motorway.

A quick meal later we set off again, but John is insisting we turn right, despite the fact we clearly came in from the left.

Trusting ourselves over an untried gadget and preferring to stick mainly on motorway than cross country, we turn left (Mr Cleese is most upset at this) and head back a mile or so to the motorway junction.

That'll be the motorway junction that just has a southbound exit, not a southbound entry...

Ah we of little faith.

As we near our final destination in rural Buckinghamshire, the fog descends until it's hard to see more than 20m ahead on the small lanes I'm driving down. Whilst resisting the temptation to drive using the sat nav map as some form of video game guidance, having it in my peripheral vision as I edge gently ahead, at least gives forewarning of junctions and sharp bends.

Just before midnight we pull into the driveway of the conference centre that will be serving as our hotel for the next couple of nights. It's hard not to be impressed by the building that appears out of the fog.

Ok the sleeping accommodation is slightly less splendid, a study bedroom is a study bedroom, is a study bedroom, but clean and comfy and all we need. It even has free broadband on tap so I can make the most of the tip from a friend (who shall remain anonymous) of where I can get a leaked copy of a certain band's forthcoming album (and yes I will buy the CD when released anyway). After a long day in the office and then having done all the driving, I fall into bed, accompanied by beautiful tunes, trying not to think about how few hours there are before my alarm will sound to get me up and out in time to set up for the training course we're here to run.

Anger Management

Thrown off an anger management course for being too angry?

It’s just going to piss her off more you know…

Sunday, February 04, 2007


After a hectic week, I’m looking forward to a quiet day off, ahead of what looks like it will be another tiring week.

I have but one chore to complete, given I’ll not be able to make Book group on Thursday, I’ve offered to lend my copy of The Ghost Road to Nonreader (plus the spare copy I have of Nineteen Eighty-Four).

She rings and sounds terribly bunged up with a cold and as if she’s at death’s door. She mentions she needs to get to Borders to buy her brother a book token (yes you read right she was planning to go to a bookstore) and needs to work that around when I’m coming as her letter box is probably too small for me to get the book through.

I comment that she sounds like she should be in bed and given I’m coming out anyway, why don’t I go to Borders for her en route. A cunning plan is hatched.

As I’m getting ready to leave, Stuart rings. We chat about the huge shiny thing he and Karen are about to buy (watch his blog for details in due course) and the small shiny thing I bought yesterday. Stuart has been considering a sat nav as well, and it was his preference for the TomTom that swayed me in part. The news that if he and K do get one in due course, we’d be able to sign up as ‘buddies’ and then be able to see where the other one is, delights his childish side as much as it does mine*.

He did mention he needed to get to Morrisons (on foot, K has the car), to get food for their tea, but somehow the time got away from us (my fault K – blame me!). As he dashes off at ten to four, I joke that I’ll wait for his begging call if he’s too late.

Ten minutes later the phone rings.

So I end up rushing about to get out, first to Tescos for chicken for their curry (and some flowers for poorly sick Nonreader, even illogical people need cheering up when they’re ill I reckon), then to Borders for the book token and then to Currys for an adaptor I needed (I get to the doors at four fifty and the cheeky buggers are locking up), they’re out of stock anyway, but PC World next door come up good.

Then on to Nonreader’s to drop things off and finally on to the Dog Collars and Rabbit Corpses household, where the absence of chicken breasts is not going down well. In return for said items I’m invited to tea (lovely bonus) and we sit and chat, putting the world to rights and pouring over the brochure of their new shiny thing.

Home in time to pack my bags and fall into bed with eyelids sagging again.

*N.B. I ask mention this feature to Sally (another TomTom owner) on MSN later. It’s news to her and she remarks that it’s rather typical that she’s had hers for a year and never looked at the website for extra features, whereas in my first 24 hours of ownership…

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Finding Direction

I gave up trying to read the papers for today’s Ops Manager review meeting last night, sleep kept interrupting me. Giving it up as a bad idea, I vowed instead to get up early this morning, get to our meeting venue ahead of schedule and read the papers there.

Of course, I did just that (ha! Ye of little faith!) and was sat surrounded by papers at the airport hotel when MS arrived.

DC rings from Stockport train station, running a little late (so no change in some cases then), SW is running about 20 minutes late and follows him in, but MF and BB are still on the runway at Gatwick. Whilst it’s a bright and clear day in Manchester itself, a little pocket of fog is clinging to the airport and delaying arrivals by up to 2 hrs.

We start covering what we can and people catch up and join in as they arrive.

It’s an intensive day, so much to cover, every last minute is utilised. We get loads done and a good 90% of what was needed, which isn’t bad.

Exhausted I head home, but need to go via some shops to get provisions for my empty fridge.

The fog has descended again and it’s thick as a blanket out by Heald Green. I’ve driven that back route from the airport any number of times, but the fog is so bad I’m seriously disorientated and having to strain to see turnings.

I’ve been seriously thinking about getting a sat nav for the car and have been looking on-line a little at the post-Christmas deals. Part of me says it’s an un-necessary extravagance, I’m pretty good with maps (I’d be a hopeless Eng1neer if I wasn’t) and rarely feel the desire for the added aid that a sat nav brings, but a couple of trips recently in fog or pitch black unlit roads have made me reconsider.

It feels like a sign that as I pop into M&S to return a few bits, there in front of me, with a two year guarantee (competing with John Lewis anyone?), is the TomTom 510 that I’ve been considering and there in my wallet are the unspent Christmas bonus vouchers I got from the company.

I take it as a sign and gadget girl strikes again.

Oh it sparkles, oh it shines, oh it delights.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Southport and Crosby

Up at a reasonable hour we pop round to L’s and admire her loft conversion and wonderful homemade scotch pancakes, fresh off the griddle.

Next we’re off to Southport to make the most of what is a most glorious winter’s day, fresh and sunny.

For the first time I visit the café and amusements building at the end of the pier. The architecture is wonderful – a wall of glass leaning out over the, well not sea exactly, this is Southport after all, the sea is some miles away most of the day, but the expanse of wet sand. Sadly the café does not meet the standard of it’s venue and we just have a drink, deciding lunch can wait for a better outlet.

We spend a happy half hour with our handfuls of ‘old pennies’ playing the gorgeous old slot machines and getting our fortunes told by Madame Zasha (complete with drawing pin for bindi), before heading back down the pier and into the town.

We treat ourselves to some fish and chips, well it seems only right, before hitting the shops.

We stick to the nice bits, the gorgeous old arcades and second hand bookstores. As we walk I look up at the beautiful glass and iron roof and wonder why modern shopping malls can spend millions and never get close to this level of style.

Having finished each other’s sentences at various points through the morning, things come to a climax in one shoe shop sale as we browse back to back, concentrating on our respective size racks. At the exact same moment we turn to each other and say “what do you think of these?” and look down and see we’re holding identical shoes.

They look better on S than on me, but sadly in her size there is a colour variation between the left and the right, that is too much to ignore; so we leave empty handed.

Walking back to the front, we decide to make the most of the last of the daylight and head on to one of my favourite places in the world - Crosby beach and Anthony Gormley’s Another Place.

Ice creams in hand, we head to the sands and go for a glorious walk enjoying the changing colours as the bright daylight starts to fade and the sun sets below the horizon.

There are also photos of S (which I'm too much of a friend to post publically), with her leg flung over shoulder of one statue as she hangs on for dear life in an attempt to get onto its shoulders. I text one particularly amusing shot to P with the caption “your wife is molesting public art” and receive the response “I’m rarely lost for words…”.

After previous attempts to find decent food nearby, we decide not to bother and figure that the café in M&S at Gemini just off the M62 would be a call to sit out the worst of the Manchester bound traffic, whilst also providing a last shopping opportunity. Not the most glamorous of options, but we only want a light bite and it’s convenient.

We make it back to Manchester in time for me to drop S off at the station with ten minutes to spare before her train back to Wolverhampton.

A perfect day, to round off a pretty damn wonderful week.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


S is came up to Manchester today and on the way back from work, I call round at T’s and pick the pair of them up for a curry in Rusholme (Punjab –back on form I’m happy to say).

T’s been having a tough time and as we drop her home, it plays on both S and my minds.